One of the pastors I know told me that he began a study on Jesus’ Parable of the Sower” by declaring to his congregation that they were all dirt. He got their attention immediately. He was referring to the “soil conditions” of the heart described in Jesus’ story. All human beings have different personalities, but in this parable, Jesus as the Divine Farmer, shows us that there are specific categories of soil or heart/character types that are common to all humanity in relation to the reception of the Gospel message, as we shall see.
The “Parable of the Sower” is the first major parable in Mark’s account and it is located in Chapter Four, verses three through twenty. This parable is a foundational parable of the kingdom, and many of Jesus’ other parables can relate back to this one.
Jesus taught the masses in parables leaving it to them to seek its meaning. He gave the interpretation to His disciples in private. He wasn’t being mean or excluding the people from understanding. He knew that those among the crowd that could understand would grasp the seeds of His word and grow with it, as illustrated in the parable. They were all the “dirt” or soil types in the story. Those who could hear would hear. Jesus knew that those who received His word were the “good ground” (verse 8) and they would ultimately grow and bear fruit.
Again, the “Parable of the Sower” is a foundational parable. That is why when His disciples asked Him what the parable meant, He said to them, “You don’t understand this parable? And then how will you know all parables?” (verse 13).
Jesus explained the parable to them, and to us. The parable illustrates four types, and we are all in there somewhere.
The first are those who are on “The Wayside” (verses 4,15). In the Greek, the word ‘way,’ hodos (hod-os’) can mean a traveled way or a road. These are seekers, travelers who are subject to demonic attacks and deception. They are what I call the “spiritually gullible.” These ones cannot discern the truth, or may not want to, and therefore can be robbed of the pure Word of God they have heard. These people then are pulled away into false religions and cults and never make it to the farm so to speak.
The second category are those who are sown on “stony ground” (5,6,16,17). These have no “root in themselves.” These rootless ones Jesus describes, have an underlying heart condition that is hard. The self-life is predominate, and God’s word can only penetrate so far. The faith of these ones is conditional. It is not dependent upon Jesus, but on their circumstances. They are fine when everything is going well, but fall away when enduring hardship, affliction or persecution because of their Christian profession. These gardens prefer doctrines that focus on God’s promises and not His disciplines. When life intrudes upon their concept of God’s Word, they are fried, they can’t take the heat and their faith is abandoned.
The third type is described as “Thorns.” These are the ones with cluttered hearts. They are consistently concerned with the things of this life more than the things of God. They have allowed themselves to succumb to the devil’s temptations as illustrated for us in Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). They are surrounded by the thorns of lust – the lust of the flesh, the pride of life and the lust of the eyes. They are not allowing themselves to be led by the spirit and let God weed them because they prefer the things of the world.
“Cares,” “riches” and “Lusts” constantly hinder them from producing any kind of spiritual harvest God can use.
They are not soul winners. They are content showing up in church on Sunday morning and that’s about it.
They are not concerned with their spiritual development. They prefer spending their time in the mall and making money, rather than enriching themselves by spending quality time with God. They are aptly described in Jesus’ admonishment to His church in Laodicea, where this revolting, lukewarm spiritual condition is vomited or spewed out of His mouth (Rev. 3:16).
Finally we come to number four. This is the “Good Ground.” These ones can hear the Word and receive it. They allow it to penetrate them deeply. They take the Word of God very seriously as true disciples, viewing it as the absolute Truth it is. They will guard the treasure they have received with their lives. They will resist any attempt the devil makes to steal the truth from their souls and rob them of their spiritual wealth.
Their faith is not dependent on their circumstances and they will endure hardship and persecution without denying their faith in Jesus. They are the faithful bride of Christ.
Because they are walking with Jesus and spending quality time in prayer and God’s Word, they are “spiritually aware” of the “cares” “riches” and “lusts” of the earth life and refuse to allow them to take root in their soil. They are constantly weeding, aware of the distractions of this life that the devil attempts to sow into the hearts of a believer. Those in this good soil refuse to let anything take root and develop into a full blown weed, because they have trained themselves to recognize those intrusions.
Jesus shows us in this parable that the kingdom of God begins with the sowing of the seeds of His word into the mind. Those seeds are watered by God’s Holy Spirit and the first crop that is produced is internal. To those who have received it and allowed those seeds to borrow deep into their hearts, their spiritual crops will grow. The fruits of a holy character are developed that makes them a credible witness to the truth they bear. The result of that growth is evangelism. The Holy Spirit prompts the disciple into sharing his produce with others, thereby expanding God’s kingdom, which is the people He inhabits for His glory.
We must recognize that within every church congregation there is a variety of soil types that have been illustrated for us in Jesus’ parable. Is there Scriptural evidence to support the concept of one soil type transforming into another? Can a thorn patch be cultivated out of its complacency and turned into productive “good ground”? Is there hope for those who may not be aware of their positions on the side of the road and others who can’t see the rocks in their characters? Only God knows for sure, but we have the assurance that with God all things are possible (Mark 10:27). With this hope in mind, we mix our fertilizer from the Word of God and cast it out upon the seeds that have been sown.
For those on the “Wayside,” we must continually share the Gospel along with prayer for their protection from demonic interference. Because spiritual warfare is downplayed, neglected, nonexistent, or deliberately avoided in so many of today’s churches, it’s easy to see why the devil can enter and rob the Gospel’s seeds from so many. When I was sharing with a pastor about the need for the church to minister in this area, he literally shut a door in my face. We must understand that believers have been given power over the devil (Matthew 10:1). Disobedience to the Lord’s command to come against demonic activity will never be rewarded and will ultimately be judged. It’s no wonder so many churches are stagnant and not growing.
Therefore whenever we are sowing the Gospel it is vitally important to remember to use the power we have been given to command the devil and forbid him from robbing the harvest in Jesus’ name.
For those on the “stony ground,” we need to continually remind these ones that Jesus is the only way to the Father and Heaven, He is worth enduring for and if they fall away they fall away into hell’s abyss.
No one really knows if they are in this particular category until they are tested and then it may be too late. It’s important for all of us to recognize this principle and then seek the Lord to remove any stones that we can’t see lurking beneath the surface of our hearts, and for Him to develop a strong root in us where there is none.
Again, “With God all things are possible.” He does miracles. He made a planet out of nothing and He can put roots in the rootless, if we are aware and we pray.
A Christian woman I met who was an exhibitor at an art show shared her testimony with me. She and her husband were driving through the desert on their way to an event when their car broke down. The transmission was gone and they were stranded out in the middle of nowhere.
The wife, however was a woman of faith and prayer. She sat down on a rock and prayed. After a while she told her husband to go start the car again. He protested saying it was no use, their old car was done, but he finally did as she requested just to appease her. To his amazement the car responded as if there was nothing wrong, and they made it to the art show on time.
When they arrived back home, the husband took the car to a repair shop to have the transmission checked. The repairman told him, “You have a brand new transmission in this car, there’s nothing wrong with it.”
God had responded to the wife’s prayer of faith and put a new transmission in their aging car. God is also able to put a brand new root in you, too.
For those who have sprouted up in a garden patch surrounded by thorns, we administer God’s word as fire to burn away their dependence on the things of this life, reminding them that their treasure is in heaven, focusing their gaze upward, and away from the temporal things of this life.
The ground in this garden is obviously capable of producing a harvest, but it is rendered ineffective by the abundance of thorns that are being tolerated in its midst. This Laodicean garden plot is subject to the Lord’s purging, as described in Revelation 3:18-19, - if she does not readily respond to the fertilizer of God’s spoken or written word.
Thorns can be removed. Jesus shows us in the following parable that He works on unproductive plants by applying fertilizer. -
He spoke also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.
Then said he to the dresser of his vineyard, ‘Behold, these three years I came seeking fruit on this fig tree, and found none: cut it down; why cumber the ground with it?’
And he answered him, ‘Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:
And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that you shall cut it down’ (Luke 13:6-9).
The dung here represents unpleasant, spiritually smelly circumstances the tree must endure. It is through these trials their spiritual thorns are removed and fruit of a zealous, holy character is developed.
It is vitally important to be aware of the need for fruit production that the Lord desires, because we are only given a certain amount of time in this life for our characters to develop. Our reward in heaven is based on what we accomplish now while we are living. We want to do our best and please our Lord who gave His life for us.He is anxious to work in our gardens and help us to grow into the best disciples we can be for His glory and the welfare of others.
And for those planted on the good soil, we must fertilize them with the whole truth of God’s word, and feed them a balanced formula of encouragement and correction. These are God’s sheep and they will follow the Shepherd and willingly eat what He feeds them.
All of us who have been planted in the Lord’s garden, need to recognize what soil types we are and be willing to ask the Lord to make us that good ground He desires us to be. For this is why this parable has been given, so those who have ears to hear can listen, grow and bloom.
Lord, if I am on the wayside, please let your seed remain, and in Jesus’ name I renounce any attempts the devil makes to steal my precious seeds of faith.
Lord, if there are rocks in me that I cannot see, that somehow would cause me to fall away from you, please remove them and put a good, strong root in me, for I am dependent upon You, the Master Gardener for what I need.
Lord, if I am surrounded by thorns, please remove them. Weed my soul and make me a zealous, vibrant, productive garden that You can enjoy.
Lord, if my heart is the good soil, then let my roots grow deeper and deeper into You. Let my fruit be abundant for Your glory. Amen.
copyright 2017 by H.D. Shively
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